Silverstone: McLaren’s championship leader Lewis Hamilton hailed the best lap of his career and the support of the Silverstone fans after qualifying fourth for the British Grand Prix on Saturday.
“Today, if it was ever important to be at my best in qualifying, then this was it,” Hamilton told reporters after finishing behind a Red Bull one-two of Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber, and Ferrari’s Fernando Alonso.
“I honestly feel it was the best lap I’ve done since I’ve been in Formula One,” the 2008 world champion added with a grin.
“I’ve had many, many great laps but this is a circuit that demands accuracy. I just felt that this lap seemed to come together and I can honestly say that I didn’t have anything in my car left,” he said.
“Even though we are not pole, with the package that we had, I felt we optimised it.”
Hamilton and Jenson Button, his McLaren team mate and the defending drivers’ champion, have endured a difficult time since conceding on Friday that a major update to their cars was a step too far.
McLaren decided to ditch the new floor and “blown diffuser” -- part of the rear structure that is “blown” by exhaust gases passing through it to create extra downforce -- after second practice.
They instead reverted to the set-up that took them to a second and third place in Valencia two weeks ago.
“We’ve struggled all weekend,” said Hamilton, who leads second-placed Button by six points in the standings.
“I’ve never run wide or gone off at a track so many times through Friday practice and this morning.
“But I’ve just remained optimistic all weekend and as to where it has come from, I honestly think it has come from the fans.”
Button, who has not finished on the podium at Silverstone in over a decade, was not so happy after slumping to 14th in a car he called “undriveable”, although he did back the team’s decision to postpone the update until after Sunday’s race.
“I’m very disappointed. I wanted to have a good day here in front of the home crowd. I love driving around here so it is frustrating to be so far back,” Button told reporters.
“I think the blown diffuser needs a little bit of work, so we’ll spend a bit more time on that before we put it on the car for a race,” he added.
Among the record-equalling 105,000 crowd, the British flags were out in force for the McLaren duo at a sunny Silverstone with many hoping that either man could break the pace of the Red Bull race favourites.
They will now pin their hopes on Hamilton, who said he “really strangled” his car’s neck to push for fourth on the revamped circuit.
To do so he will have to enjoy either a perfect race start or a dramatic change to the dry, sunny weather.
“I’m happy to do the rain dance tonight because I could happily do another 2008 here,” said the 25-year-old, who raced to a thrilling home victory in the wet that year.
“It’s really down to getting a good start because it’s virtually impossible to overtake on this track. It really is.
“I’m ready, so let’s go for it.”